Martin Fishbein and Joseph Cappella are the authors of the lead article, "The Role of Theory in Developing Effective Health Communications," in a special issue of the Journal of Communication (Volume 56, Supplement 2006). The Supplement issue, Integrating Behavior Change and Message Effects Theories in Cancer Prevention, Treatment, and Care, is the product of a conference held at the Annenberg School in November 2003 sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and co-sponsored by the International Communication Association and The Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Dr. Cappella (along with Barbara K. Rimer) co-edited the nearly 300-page volume of over a dozen research articles, and has the last word in the summary piece, "Integrating Message Effects and Behavior Change Theories: Organizing Comments and Unanswered Questions" where he "elaborate[s] the connections among the theories and research presented and raise[s] some questions that are as yet unanswered about the design of messages for effective cancer control."
Abstract of "The Role of Theory": This study attempts to show the relevance of behavioral theory for developing communications designed to promote healthy and/or to prevent or alter unhealthy behaviors. After describing an integrative model of behavioral prediction, the model's implications for designing persuasive communications are considered. Using data from a study on smoker's intentions to continue smoking and to quit, it is shown how the theory helps identify the critical beliefs underlying these or other intentions. Finally, it is argued that although behavioral theory can help identify the beliefs that should be targeted in a persuasive communication, our ability to change these beliefs will ultimately rest on communication theory.
Abstract of "Integrating Message Effects": Three broad classes of theories about message effects in cancer control are presented in this special supplement to the Journal of Communication. These are behavior change, information processing, and message effects theories. All three types have implications for the design of messages for cancer control. The theories are not just different approaches to a complex problem but offer complementary perspectives on the effects of messages on audiences. This summary article explores why theory is so important to efficient research in message effects and speculates about the interrelation among behavior change, information processing, and message effects models.